Saturday, 30 July 2011

Allotment and Garden Update

After a very busy couple of months, two fabulous family weddings, (one being in Italy), I am finally back to my normal routine. Well almost !!  The allotment was so overgrown when we got back from Italy and finally managed to get up there.  I set about pulling up the onions and drying them off to store.  The mangetout were almost over and the next later sown three rows ready to be staked and netted.  I am still picking runner and french beans. There has been so many that my neighbours have benefited too.  The flower beds on the allotment are amazing, especially the 'Asters' the colours are beautiful.  Just look at this bouquet I cut last week and I have more dotted around the house too.

Aster 'Duchess Mixed'  from 'Wilko's'

The Globe Artichokes are a good size, but I really only love the hearts and they were a little disappointing when I cooked some of them  as the hearts weren't worth all the effort that the cooking took, maybe next year when the plants are a year old !!

The garlic has been brilliant this year as have the onions, so they should all last me until next year.

Courgettes, not too bad but nowhere near as prolific as in recent years, and tomatoes not as good as I usually get either. In fact last year I couldn't keep up with either and had to make pasta sauce and freeze in batches, Oh well !!

As for my garden this year it has been fantastic. I grew more flowers from seed than I have ever done in the past and the Asters and Zinnia's have been so beautiful. I will grow them every year from now on. The 'Cerinthe' is a lovely and prolific as ever, the spikey marigolds unusual and lovely as long lasting cut flowers. The Dahlias never cease to amaze me for their longevity and the most precious one for me is my very first which is 'Pink Giraffe'  have a look at this selection of photo's to see what I mean.

The Garden in Bloom
Calendula 'Porcupine' 
Sutton seeds

Zinnia - Sutton seeds

Zinnia (pastel shades)  'Faberge Mix' Sutton seeds

'Cerinthe'   seeds collected from previous years plants

'Cosmos' Millennium, Unwins seeds, these are bright beautiful shades of yellows through to oranges and the foliage is less feathery than the pink and white shades, it's more ferny, well worth growing they are lovely. ( sorry photo a bit blurry)

  Dahlia  'Pink Giraffe'

 I have been visiting and catching up with the blogs I usually read but apologise that I haven't had time to leave comments.  Sometimes I long for the autumn and winter months so that I can get back to some reading and my crafts.  I love the allotment and garden, but between visiting my family and spending days at my son's enjoying the grandchildren life gets hectic and I never seem to have time to fit everything in.

Have a lovely week-end and let's hope the sun shines !!!

Monday, 25 July 2011

R.I.P Amy

You had a troubled life and a struggle with your addictions, you had your faults but no-one is perfect ! Your voice was/ is amazing and you will never be forgotten, what a waste of a young and talented life . R.I.P Amy

Graffiti Art on a van in Camden where Amy lived and was loved. I took this photo when I visited Camden last year.

Monday, 18 July 2011

My faith in customer service has been restored

A few posts ago I wrote about painting my lovely Summerhouse, but I hadn't mentioned that we have had a lot of problems with the timber since it was first bought almost five years ago. Knots were falling out and leaving gaps, shrinkage in the timber that left gaps you could see daylight through and generally leaks in various places. The local company that we bought it from initially sent someone out a few times to put sealer in places to stop the leaks, but it never really did the trick, so we fell out of love with our Summerhouse and hardly used it anymore.

So this year we decided to re-clad the bad bits ourselves and then paint it outside and inside to give it a complete makeover. The trouble was we couldn't get the same tongue and groove cladding that matched the original wood. we tried everywhere locally.

So in desperation we bought something similar but it left us with a 2 inch gap at the top of the back of the Summerhouse, as the overlap wasn't the same as the original.   So we came to a halt in our makeover. I then decided to contact the Summerhouse manufacturer (Shires) direct and was given a contact to e-mail called Maggie. I had a lovely reply and an offer of replacement timber ! I can't tell you how amazed we were. After all this time of putting up with the problems I realise that I should have contacted Shires in the first place. Why on earth didn't I do that ?????

The timber arrived this morning  YEAH ! so we can now finish the job. Thanks to Shires generous after sales customer service and the very helpful Maggie .  Isn't it great to know that some companies do care about their customers satisfaction and their Company reputation. So a big big thank you to Shire Garden Buildings.

And here is a photo of the Summerhouse not finished yet, but now we have the wood it will be watertight and I can paint the inside cream and finish painting the back and the side. We look forward to using it all summer again.

Southampton Indian 'Mela' festival

We went to the Mela on Saturday and had a great time. It was colourful, loud, the food smelt and tasted delicious and the Indian Bollywood music playing on the main stage was great. There was lot's of handsome young Indian men showing off with their dancing and generally having fun.

The nicest part about the Mela is that it is always a big melting pot of cultures and peoples, all enjoying the festival.  Having missed the festival last year we noticed that it had changed and not for the better either.  There were lot's of fairground  rides, shooting galleries, ghost train, and other tacky things that made it seem more like a British fairground rather than the traditional Indian festival that it has been in the past.  Also missing was the more traditional Indian musicians. However it was still a pleasant experience and plenty of portaloos this time which was an improvement.  I hope they get comments about the lack of tradition and get it back for next year.  We had Lamb Biriyani for lunch which was superb.

I hope you enjoy these photo's.

The Main Stage

 Fabulous colourful clothes

Colourful headscarves

Henna Tattooist

Traditional Indian fabric detail

Traditional Dancers and band

Colourful festival goers

A music workshop

These are photo's from a previous year just to show the traditional musicians that were lacking this year.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My first Globe Artichokes

I hadn't been to the allotment since last Thursday and there wasn't a sign of an artichoke then, so today I was excited and amazed to find lot's of little artichokes popping up on the plants that only got sown and grown this year. I can't wait to cut them and cook them.

Aren't they amazing plants ? I love them and need to find a recipe to pickle the hearts in oil and herbs.

I also have lot's of fruits on the cape gooseberry.

And the chillies are doing well.

Lots more potatoes and garlic

Runner beans are forming and there seems to be two different varieties, so I must have sown the ones with the white flower by mistake. I've no idea what they are.

French beans are forming as well. I have 'Fasold' and 'Blue Lake' and another mistake that's got sown which I think a neighbour gave me seeds from her dark bean crop last year. They look beautiful I can't wait to try them.

There are loads of flowers and still more to come such as the 'Astor's' the bees and hover-flies are loving the plot at the moment and the Cosmos and Lavender are a favourite.

The 'Echinacea' grown from seed last year are doing exceptionally well. So all in all the visit today was really worthwhile as it's all looking productive and pretty.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Broad Beans and Jam

I have spent most of the day in the kitchen making jam and freezing broad beans. It takes so long to pod the beans, blanch them briefly then prepare them for freezing, but it had to be done as I didn't want  them going soft and having to compost them. I shouldn't have harvested them on Sunday as I knew I didn't have time until today to freeze them. But they were fine.

The Beans podded and before blanching, some were kept back for dinner this evening and were delicious, especially the red ones. Green beans are 'Bunyards Exhibition' Red beans are 'Red Epicure'
I harvested a huge basket of beans but the  amount of beans you get after podding doesn't look much, but then there's a huge pile of pods for the compost bin, so it all goes back into the earth again to enrich the soil for next year.

I had harvested most of my green gooseberries as they were trailing on the ground and going a bit soft.  I gave some away, but had so many left over I decided to try and make some gooseberry jam.  It turned out very good and had a great set. I also had loads of red gooseberries and wasn't sure what to do with them all. I  had frozen strawberries in the freezer from last year, so after looking through my preserve book I decided to make Strawberry and Gooseberry jam.  It's such a lovely combination and the colour is lovely.
I made three and a half jars of the gooseberry and five jars of strawberry and gooseberry. A good days work I think, now for a glass of wine !!!